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'Thank You for Loitering'

(August 2007) posted on Mon Aug 27, 2007

How Dallas-based Sonntag helped bring The Simpsons' Kwik-E-Mart to Life.

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By Angela Prues

Sonntag turned to its two MacDermid ColorSpan 72UVR printers for all of its components on the job, taking into consideration the lightfastness that would be required for any outdoor displays. Griffin and crew chose an OTO White Styrene media for about 90% of its output, which, combined with UV-curable inks, eliminated the need for any lamination. The company did add a UV clearcoat for durability, providing sufficient color protection for the one-month installation, says Griffin.

Once it had completed the 30 hours of print time, Sonntag had to finish the products before delivering them to Tracy Locke. "The biggest challenge was the timing-there were so many elements we had to focus on," says Griffin. Sonntag scored, routed, and cut the array of pieces, completing them on Thomson and Blueline clamshell and roller die-cutters, an 85- and a 55-in. Seybold guillotine cutter, and two Practik cutters for one-offs.

"Most digital shops do not have as much finishing and fulfillment [equipment] in-house as we do, and this allowed us to bring all of the elements together in such a short time," says Griffin, who notes that the "short amount of time" did include putting in some weekend hours. All of the final printed pieces-more than 1200 in all-were then delivered to TracyLocke for fulfillment and delivery to the individual stores. Various representatives from the firm oversaw the installations at each of the locations.

Charitable trash

Certainly the Simpsons signs and Homer hoopla drew attention: The 11 stores doubled or tripled their revenue for the one-month promotion when compared to July of last year, says 7-Eleven’s Margaret Chabris. Many of those sales were customers specifically seeking a Kwik-E-Mart purchase, says Hayman, "customers around the country waited in line for upwards of an hour to experience this fictional world that 7-Eleven brought to life."

As the movie opened with a whopping $71.9 million in the first three days, the Kwik-E-Marts were disassembled. But Sonntag’s handiwork was still generating revenue-for charity. Since the Springfield dump was incapable of disposing of it, 7-Eleven donated all of the signage to Children’s Miracle Network-affiliated hospitals near the converted store locations. Each hospital chose what to do with the signage, though many of the displays were auctioned off either locally or globally. Sonntag’s "The First Bank of Springfield (misplacing decimals since 194.5)" sign (that came with a $2.50 sign reading fee) had an Ebay top bid of $127.50 at press time. For an industry that usually pays to dispose of used banners, this job just keeps on giving.